GENERAL APPEARANCE: Otterbourne is a village just north of Eastleigh and south of Winchester. In the centre of the village is a thriving enterprise that offers services from a forecourt with shop and post office, through to MOT testing, vehicle hire and even scuba diving! The MOT and service bays, forecourt and shop were busy.

 

FORECOURT: The illuminated Esso pole showing very competitive fuel prices and a variety of services is clearly visible to passing traffic.

The site frontage is quite narrow but the marked entrance and exit seem to work. Access to the four pump islands under a large Esso-branded canopy is tight. All the pumps were in action and topped by current non-food offers.

To the rear of the site is the car wash and also the busy MOT and service bays.

The site offers a Calor Gas service and free air is available. There is an ice machine and a post box, a community/parish council notice board, as well as winter and barbecue fuels, flowers and newspapers. Just outside the entrance are a number of free-standing display baskets containing a variety of special offers many with a £1 price point.

 

SHOP: The store is a Budgens (converted fairly recently from Spar) but does not seem to conform totally to the group’s corporate image having an independent style of its own. It’s part-Budgens (fresh food) and part-discount store.

Inside there was a small display of Budgens £1 deals on fruit and vegetables as well as non-food lines. Shelving is high and there are lots of free-standing floor units which make shopping a challenge. The store stocks a wide range of products but is cluttered and, with its narrow aisles, gives the impression of a bazaar rather than a modern convenience store.

Locally-sourced products are stocked. Produce is limited but it all looked fresh. The off licence section offered a reasonable selection of products.

The Simply Coffee hot drinks unit occupies a gondola end and this results in rather a tight bottleneck. Two small hot food-to-go display units offer a range of savouries and a range of Budgens Bakery products is also available. Budgens own-label products are stocked and a good selection of offers are available.

Tucked into the far corner of the store is the Post Office, a photo copy machine and stationery products. Two floor display units for greetings cards were placed so that any browsing customers would block the way.

The customer toilet was ’out of order’. The sales assistants provided a good service.

 

PROGNOSIS: True to its website slogan ’From convenience store to vehicle workshops, we cater for all your vehicle needs and more’ the owners of the Williams Garage are driving their business on a variety of fronts.

Their major challenge must be to profitably manage all the different busy elements out of a site that’s restricted in size. The Budgens store is tight and would certainly benefit from an increase in its sales area.

 

DIAGNOSIS: The road through the village of Otterbourne runs parallel with the M3 and is a ’rat run’ for drivers. Williams Garage obviously does attract drivers with its comparatively easy access and competitive fuel prices. The shop offerings are comprehensive enough and should help to convert fuel-only customers to fuel and shop customers. But with the store being so cluttered it may be missing out on some valuable top-up and impulse sales. Many drivers want to shop fast.

 

PRESCRIPTION: The partnership with Budgens should be reviewed to ensure maximum benefit is being achieved. In the current economic climate £1 offers are good but they should be selective and sale items must offer value for money.

It may be helpful to ensure that products and offers are all consumer-driven and not just the result of a buyer looking for deals.

Consider an ATM for use when the post office is closed.

Customer navigation should be improved by clearing some of the under-performing floor units.

Finally, the Williams Garage website should be updated it still shows the store as a Spar.